I live in an apartment building with really terrible sound insulation. Street noise bothers me, though I'm really pretty high above the street. Sometimes I wish I couldn't hear so much of what the next-door neighbor was watching on tv, or the neighbor across the hall pleading tearfully with her boyfriend. I don't know how much of my feeling about the matter is generally being averse to conflict, and how much is a sense that addressing these particular noise problems would be too much of an imposition...the next-door neighbor shouldn't need to find another way to deal with hearing problems, not for my sake. And however much I think the neighbor across the hall should be in a more peaceful romantic relationship, it would be icky for her to be thinking about MY happiness while negotiating it. Overhearing neighbors can be uncomfortable, but the advantages of cheap apartment living are worth it to me.
My new neighbor downstairs is distressed by how much noise I make. It's not music or conversation that bothers her. It's that I "walk so heavily." I don't wear shoes in the apartment, nor do I run or dance here. It's just that every time I put a foot down on my floor (thinking about going across the room, or mindlessly pacing while talking on the phone) it comes through to her ceiling as if I were stomping.
She seems very averse to conflict, herself. I could tell it was hard for her to bring herself to talk to me about the problem--she could only do it when she found the situation completely intolerable.* She spent a lot of time defending against the idea that it was inappropriate for her to talk to me about being disturbed by noise.** She also checked with other people, to make sure her distress was not unreasonable.*** Visitors to her apartment have been shocked by the impact of my footfalls, and wondered how anyone could live that way. She asked my neighbor across the hall, who hears me thumping around and agreed that it's incredibly loud.
The neighbor is so distressed that she says she will break her lease if I won't walk more quietly. I apologized for disturbing her, and said that I truly did not want to do so in the future, but I wasn't sure how to avoid it. I told her I already don't wear shoes in the apartment, which would be the most obvious remedy. I asked what she would suggest. She said it was simply a matter of putting my feet down more gently, and that a person with any consideration would do so. I know carpeting muffles downwards transfer of sound, but I don't want to get it because vacuuming is such a strain for my hand and shoulder.
Her next step is to notify the landlord--actually, the management company that owns the building. She expects they will order me to stop disturbing her, because her lease gives her the right to the quiet enjoyment of her apartment. The way I walk back and forth over her bedroom at 8am, or over her kitchen at 7:30pm, is making that untenable. I have no idea if the management will value her lease more than mine.
My first step will have to wait until I can overcome my anxiety enough to get out of my chair. (This is not any more fun than being too depressed to move. Maybe less, in some ways.) While I was writing this, I was thirsty, and didn't get up for a drink because it would be too noisy. I wanted to call S, but I didn't think I could talk to him without pacing, so I didn't.
*She first brought the subject up a week ago. Redbird answered the door, and handled most of the conversation. At the time, I got the impression that the neighbor was distressed because we were talking in the kitchen and clattering dishes so early that particular morning (she said 5, but we had been up at 7.)
**Last week, I tried to reassure the neighbor that it was OK to talk to me if she had a problem with something I was doing, that I wanted to know if there was something I could fix. Meanwhile, Redbird was defensive about the accusation that we had been making noise at 5am (when we'd both been sound asleep), and the neighbor was reacting to that defensiveness. At the same confused time, the neighbor was trying to make a comprehensive defense of the idea that it wasn't unreasonable or mean to talk to me about horribly disruptive noise I was making...so defensive she couldn't hear, "Yes, of course, thank you for telling me. We really do have to go now, we need to get to South Station," as anything but dismissive.
***Knowing that LOTS of people think my walk is intolerably bad is really disturbing. I mean, I understand why she checked with them. I might have done the same thing. But I still feel like people are ganging up on me.